Glass Shrimp

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They are almost translucent, keen eyes are necessary to find them!

Also known as Crustaceans, Carid Shrimps, Commensal Shrimps,Bubble Anemone Shrimp, Philippine Shrimp and Anemone Shrimp.

This transparent critter can be found only on bubble coral, its glass-like body has purple antennae and purple line down body.  They feed on parasites, algae and plankton.
Often if a divers hand is near to a cleaner shrimps, they will hop on board and perform a manicure!

Carid shrimps occur worldwide in almost every habitat, from sea water to fresh water and can be found all over the reef.  They are generally respected by other creatures, often sharing  burrows and holes and working as housekeepers.  They will wave their antennae around to attract customers, they then proceed to clean outside and inside the creatures mouths, gills and more!

Indeed, one needs keen eyes to spot them!  🙂

Cortes: The Kujaw Pride

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Lush sea grasses, corals and marine plants…

Our quest for off beaten sites is still going on, that spirit of curiosity is never put to rest and so we continue to explore and hunt from island to island.  And most often such locations are remote, far-flung and most likely unheard of in terms of tourism radar. The town is off the national highway en route to other Surigao Sur municipalities. It is practically off-road, a separated land mass like an annex facing directly the Pacific Ocean.

I met up with Angel in Tandag after sleepless rides and again, it was another long trip for almost ten hours.  Saturdays or weekends for that matter are always in a relaxing mode for the town folks but fortunately there were people in the Tourism Office just beside the Kujaw Diveshop, perhaps due to forthcoming national elections.  We waited for our contact Archie (an LGU staff) who made arrangements for the day’s dives, he lives in a barangay outside the town.

Kujaw Depths

Our first descent was in Poblacion, it was yet high tide, but water movements shifting for the low tide was intense, carrying one back to the shallows, finning hard was necessary and it was just exhaustive!  The visibility wasn’t good enough, there had been rains in the past few days and it was fortunate that it was sunny! We found pipefish, Moorish idol, angels, triggerfish, snappers and unicorn fish.  There was these three snappers who were inseparable and keep by side near me, perhaps they were siblings and was wondering what kind of black fish I am.  🙂  And there was a herd of barracuda somewhat obscure from my point, which Angel tried to swim after, I thought it was trevally! We went around, found a patch of branching corals, and the white sand ripples underwater brought by the water movements.  After 45 minutes we ascend, our deepest at 18.2 meters.

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A field of branching corals obviously competing with one another

Our surface interval was spent on the boat, Jun and Ramil (our guides) have lot of stories about Cortes and its efforts in the preservation and protection of its marine environment. They were all praises for their Mayor (vehemently against mining), they recalled that dynamite fishing was a common practice even in neighboring towns. Now,  the surrounding  waters is teeming with fish life.  The fisher folks need to observe the spawning season, strictly no fishing is allowed during the period and they perfectly understood the reason.  The local government labored for the information and education campaign, respectively livelihood projects were initiated for the people.

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Giant clams abound in the area

Our second descent was in Uba Marine Sanctuary, the current was still moving as the water recede for the low tide. There were rock formations, some cavern and crevices.  There were variety of anthias, clown fish and herds of yellow breams.  There was patch of sea grasses, which I keep holding on as I went around, the waves current is pushing me back.  We went round and round in the shallows. After 63 minutes, I signaled for ascent as the tide movements was getting rough.

Kujaw Side-trips

After checking in our refuge, we make most of the remaining time in the afternoon.  We were aiming for the Laswitan Lagoon, the town has been known for this natural wonder. The gigantic waves from the Pacific whip up the rock formation along the coast, creating like Falls.  It was not in season anymore so what we got were clear pools trapped by rock formations.  The good thing was it was calm and so serene, it was not filled with people.   It was already late, but our guide still made us to Lubcon Falls. Just a bit off the highway near the boundary to next town, a small dirt road led to this small falls.  Its cold waters was refreshing enough after a long day.  It was almost dark and it was all to ourselves, our dip was quick but the sound of the gushing waters was a calming assurance of nature’s peace and tranquility, like a soothing balm for weary souls.

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Such a welcome from a purple/yellow tree worm!

Everything in Cortes is about simple living obviously not yet spoiled by technology advancement and so called development.

Unconsciously I mentioned Cortes as my latest destination in one of work chitchats and they were asking where? Sometimes even locals are surprised such unheard town can have wonderful marine environment.  I almost joked it is in Mexico!

NO, this obscure town is not struggling for visibility, but the sincerity of the local officials and the cooperation of its people have made this community compliant to sanitation, environmental preservation & protection issues that are required for coastal communities.  Cortes has been afforded numerous awards including the Para El Mar MPA Award as one of the most outstanding MPA in Mindanao (for Uba Marine Sanctuaty). This humble town is undoubtedly worthy for a visit, you wont go home empty -hearted!  🙂

Travel Notes:

  1. My route for this trip:
    To Cortes:         CdeO to Butuan by AC bus (10PM) – 4.5 hours
    Butuan to Tandag by ordinary bus – 5 hours
    Tandag to Cortes by multicab – 30 minutes
    From Cortes:     Cortes to Tandag by multicab
    Tandag to San Francisco (Agusan Sur) by AC van
    San Francisco to Butuan by AC bus
    Butuan to CdeO by AC bus
  2. Lodgings available in town are limited to Kamalig (home stay) and the guest house of Philippine Independent Church, advance bookings necessary.
  3. Dive bookings are handled by Kujaw Diveshop, a LGU operated diving facility housed just beside the Municipal Tourism Office. They have boat, complete diving gears, tanks and compressor for air refilling
  4. Other natural spots in town worth visiting are beaches, caves, Lubcon Falls,  and  Laswitan Lagoons/Falls in which the town is known for
  5. Single motors and habal-habal are available for hire for transport needs.
  6. Kujaw is a Surigaonon word for kuyaw (Visayan) which means dreadful, horrible, alarming, appalling or shocking but for Cortes in a positive way
  7. The Kujaw Team who assisted us in our trip and whom we are grateful were Archie, Jun, Ramil and Elpedio

Charms of Camiguin

The island-province of Camiguin is a pear-shaped volcanic island in the northern tip of Mindanao. It is approximately 90 kilometers north of the City of Cagayan de Oro. It is bounded to the north by Bohol Sea, to the west by Macajalar Bay, to the southeast by Gingoog Bay and to the east by Butuan Bay.

This island paradise is inarguably my favorite local destination and as I said, it is so replete to cater for my whims and I have always reasons to be back again and again. My predilection on this island never wane a bit and last December I hit grounds to savor once again its grandeur. A weekend sojourn barely 32 hours yet it renewed my well-being enough to brace me for the year-end hullabaloo.

Cornucopia in Depths

If you are a diver and you haven’t explored the island’s underwater world, you have missed one psychedelic marine treasures and wonders. Luckily, all our transpo transfers went fluidly and we were already cruising at sunrise watching its golden splendor in the horizon.  Our divemaster was already waiting for us when we got to our refuge in Agoho preparing our gears.  The sun was perfectly shining and the water perfectly flat just waiting to be explored.

Our first descent was at Old Vulcan, after cruising for thirty minutes. The familiar granite boulders decorating in its front.  The large sea fans in variety of colors adorned the reefs, again I was engulfed in its vastness in a different world of silence. We sighted giant trevallies seven in all, there was even a tornado of snappers magnificently emphasized by surface sunlight.  Indeed there was a variety of tropical fishes colorful enough for my senses – emperors, angelfish, moorish idol, butterfly, spadefish, fusiliers, shrimp fish and assortment of anemone fish. I didn’t miss the triggerfish, and also the turtle swimming away quickly!  We linger in the large colorful coral area taking our time until we had our safety stop before the ascent.

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Giant clams scattered in the midst of corals!

The necessary surface interval was another colorful encounter and it was like shooting two birds with one stone.  🙂  We cruise to the Sunken Cemetery being our next descent, and we swam comfortably towards the Cross marker. I have been wanting to step on the underwater cross marker just at the back of monument. We snorkeled the surrounding area, the wide coral gardens housed also the giant clams and juveniles. Such wonderful discovery!

Back rolling for our last descent, we descend to a deep slope searching until we got to a coral area, There were nudis, feather stars, colorful chromis, damsels, bannerfish, cardinals, hawkfish, angels, clownfish and anthias.  We sighted too a giant puffer, a banded seasnake wiggling coyly searching for food perhaps.  We didn’t miss the cross markers, we found two just like last time, but more corals have tangled around almost covered now.  I hold on to Angel while having our safety stop, just too famished to steady my buoyancy.  🙂

Perhaps just two of the underrated dive sites but always rich and hidden surprises abound.

Summer in December

The God of the seas and weather was with us indeed, the warm sun and the flat waters felt like it was summer.  The perfect weather prompted us for more, to drenched in its beauty and seizing moments while being offered freely.  We rushed off to Yumbing, the drop off point for White Island hoping to find a cheap boat for the round trip cruise.  The sandbar is not always accessible even on early mornings. Last September while on official trip, the cruise was restricted, the waves wasn’t cooperating and we felt dismayed. Our visitors from other regions was just eager to experience the sandbar.  We were fortunate enough, a Spanish couple offered us to join them for the boat ride, at first the operator was hesitant since we were staying in a different hotel. But the Español was too firm and argued for us! Sometimes you don’t need to fight for something if it is really meant for you.  🙂

The white island was beckoning as we cruised in the afternoon sun, we were excited for the sunset! It was a perfect unwinding after our two dives, just soaking ourselves in the shallows biding our time.  There were few people, the waters calm in low tide and the setting sun was the ideal backdrop of the scenery! 🙂

The next day was all riding our way to the two falls we have planned, but we attend mass first in Mambajao church. We dashed off after a hurried breakfast over a motorbike, the driver served as our tour guide as well. Katibawasan Falls is still beautiful but didn’t tried to swim, we feasted on the kiping instead.  🙂  Tuasan Falls was something new, it was a longer ride though, but the roads were completely paved up to the entrance.  It is beautiful also, its catch basin was big enough as a pool, got a dip but didn’t linger long the waters was just too cold. But soaking in its cold natural waters watching the gushing waters was perfectly refreshing!

Coming to Camiguin in December was an ideal year end get-away. We are coming back for a summer trip to explore off-beaten corners of the island.  As I said, there is always a reason to be in Camiguin, again and again and again!

Bits of Paradise!

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Camiguin Island is one small paradise between Bohol Sea endowed with nature’s beauty and wonder as well as heritage treasures. Be in surface or in depths, amazing scenes and adventures awaits for you.  Here are few snaps during my recent travel in December 2015!

This small island province is undoubtedly one of the jewels in Mindanao. Have you visited the Island Born of Fire?

See You in September!

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The dives for this month has been reserved for dive clean-up as I always did with my dive buddy every year.  Banking on my mentor’s advocacy efforts coordinating with LGUs and other civic societies, I was looking forward to join and be part of the clean-up team. But there was no invitation and I didn’t make it.

My dive buddy suggested for Mantangale Alibuag Dive Resort (MADRI), one of my favorites and has been my home for diving. Yes, the comforts of a home awaited us.

Home.  So simple but we all have what we need. Blue skies, blue seas and blue depths teeming with life.

Home.  Serene, uncluttered and beautiful. I was home again last September!

NB. Photo snaps credit to Angel using Lumix Ts2 with Ikelite casing.